TCYK LLP is a US-based company set up to turn Internet piracy of the Robert Redford movie The Company You Keep into profit by tracking down alleged downloaders of the movie and sending them demands for cash.
After taking their case to the High Court in 2014, TCYK LLP were granted an order which forced ISP Sky to hand over the names and addresses of subscribers alleged to have downloaded and shared the movie without permission.
Last summer the first Sky customers began receiving letters from TCYK, which first laid out the company’s case and then asked for hundreds of pounds to make supposed lawsuits go away.
To those familiar with these cases it will come as no surprise that TCYK eventually screwed up. With nothing but a flimsy IP address and a time stamp for evidence they accused 83-year-old Sky customer Patricia Drew of being an Internet pirate.
“I’m upset to have been accused of something I didn’t do… how many other people has this happened to?” she said last month.
While many thousands of other individuals have been targeted in similar action in the UK, there’s nothing like picking on the elderly to enrage the public. As a result (and thanks to TCYK’s scattergun approach) they’ve now attracted the attention of Ms Drew’s local Member of Parliament.
Ian Austin is the MP for Dudley North and he says he is disgusted that the pensioner is being “bullied and hounded” for compensation.
“This company has made a ludicrous allegation,” Austin told Express and Star.
Ratcheting up the pressure, the MP says that he has written to Business Secretary Sajid Javid calling for action to safeguard consumers like Patricia.
“I am waiting to hear from the Business Secretary to see what action the Government plan to take on this disgraceful behavior.”
Ian Austin says he will also raise the matter in Parliament and if he keeps to his word this will be yet another occasion that so-called “copyright trolls” have attracted the attention of Parliament and indeed the House of Lords.
In 2010, Lord Lucas slammed the activities of now-defunct copyright troll firm ACS:Law as “straightforward legal blackmail” while demanding that something be done to ensure that citizens’ personal details were not given out to similar companies “willy-nilly”.
Nevertheless, five years on and little has changed, except the way these companies operate. Instead of having regulated and accountable law firms front and center, companies like TCYK are now writing to Internet subscribers themselves or via companies operating out of virtual offices. This means that people in Patricia Drew’s position have no Solicitors Regulatory Authority to turn to when things get ugly.
“It is clearly a loophole in the law that allows them to behave like this. The only way this will stop is if our lawmakers step in and take action,” says Dave Drew, Patricia’s son.
“My mother is stunned by what is going on but there is no way we will be paying up.”
Although companies like TCYK threaten legal action for anyone that refuses to pay their ‘fines’, not once has a contested case ever gone to court in the UK. With the heat now being applied to Patricia Drew’s case, there is almost zero chance that TCYK will pursue her case further.
The entire business model of these companies centers around quick settlements for relatively large sums of money and thus far Patricia’s case is not only yielding no profit but is likely to result in even fewer people caving in to TCYK’s demands.
It will be very interesting to hear what Ian Austin MP comes back with from Parliament and whether anything can be done to stop the wave of troll-style lawsuits in the UK.